Is Transparency The Key Enabler of Agile?

Transparency IMO is perhaps the key enabler of Agile. It is at the foundation of building trust, the emergent nature of design and the ability to have effective inspect and

Tranparency

Tranparency

adapt cycles.

I recently experienced a breakthrough with a client that was experiencing discord between the Product Owners (POs) and the Chief Product Owner (CPO) in a large product development effort. The primary source of this discontent was basically a lack of transparency. The teams would find out late stage in their release that there was some fixed timeline commitment that had to be met which then would cause a ‘all hands on deck’ message to the teams. The team would then have to put in long hours and weekends (mini-death march) to try to get the commitment met. As it turned out, knowledge of this commitment could have been shared with the team a few weeks before it was.

Of course we all know how well this type of event works in an Agile environment and you can probably guess the outcome
1.  Heroics to check the box on the commitment
2.  Lower quality
3.  Taxing relationships which erodes transparency
4.  Frustration with and doubt of agile change initiative because leadership isn’t walking the talk..

With a heads up you can be prepared for changes

With a heads up you can be prepared for changes

Turns out that the CPOs lack of transparency had good intentions. There was the feeling that by being opaque with respect to such commitments, the PO felt they were protecting the team. This was because often they were trying to change or shield the teams from the unplanned work. Unfortunately while the CPO had good intentions this lack of transparency actually was having the opposite effect.

Working with the CPO to better understand the cause and effect relationship between transparency and trust, attitude and motivation, there is beginning to be a change in the CPO to be more transparent. Through this progress he is now giving the teams working on the product a fuller and longer view of the coming road, they are better able to navigate bumps and pot holes, even pits.

Humans beings deal with change better when they have a clearer idea of what challenges may be coming rather than being blind sided. They can mentally prepare and even offer different perspectives and innovative ideas with respect to dealing with possible bumps, potholes and detours in the road ahead.

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About Mike DePaoli

Mike DePaoli has been contributing to the IT community for over two decades and practicing agile and lean approaches to software development since 1996 in roles from programmer to CTO. His evolved approach to crafting successful lean-agile software development organizations was forged by the meaningful challenges he undertook at prior employers and as an Agile Coach at companies such as eBay, Adobe Systems, AOL, NetApp, Disney, Boeing, EMC, and Trizetto. Mike’s area of expertise is helping organizations craft strategic change initiatives that educate on and establish agile and lean values, principles and practices at every tier of the organization. Mike applies systematic thinking with a multi-discipline approach to his work. Mike is a Certified SAFe Agilist, Certified Scrum Professional, Certified Scrum Master (CSM) and Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO). He is a highly-regarded speaker in the Agile community having spoken at Agile conferences in North America, South America and Europe. He is currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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